A method of bonding substrates by hydroxide-catalyzed hydration/dehydration involves applying a bonding material to at least one surface to be bonded, and placing the at least one surface sufficiently close to another surface such that a bonding interface is formed between them. A bonding material of the invention comprises a source of hydroxide ions, and may optionally include a silicate component, a particulate filling material, and a property-modifying component. Bonding methods of the invention reliably and reproducibly provide bonds which are strong and precise, and which may be tailored according to a wide range of possible applications. Possible applications for bonding materials of the invention include: forming composite materials, coating substrates, forming laminate structures, assembly of precision optical components, and preparing objects of defined geometry and composition. Bonding materials and methods of preparing the same are also disclosed.